2 min

Not in public interest

BC Crown stays local bawdy house charge

ONE CASE DROPPED, ANOTHER ON TO THE SUPREMES. BC's Crown has dropped bawdy house charges against Jamie Lee Hamilton (pictured) for running a safe house for sex workers. But Calgary resident Terry Haldane is fighting his bawdy house charges for being a found-in at Goliath's bathhouse. Credit: Xtra West files

The BC Crown has decided it’s not in the public interest to pursue a bawdy house charge against a local sex workers’ advocate.

Vancouver police charged Jamie Lee Hamilton with keeping a common bawdy house after they raided Grandma’s House, her safe house for sex workers, in Aug 2000. She’s been trying to fight the charge ever since.

Last spring she asked provincial court judge Carlie Truman to dismiss the case because, she said, the bawdy house law is too broad and should be stricken from the Criminal Code.

After several months of deliberation, the judge refused. Then she went on leave.

Hamilton braced herself for yet another long wait, as the court prepared to appoint a new judge and debate whether the lawyers should present their cases all over again.

And all along, the Crown insisted on pursuing its bawdy house charge.

Until now.

Hamilton got a call from her lawyer just as she was preparing to return to court Apr 23. Her ordeal was over. The Crown had stayed the charge after all.

“We came to the conclusion that it was no longer in the public interest to prosecute,” explains Crown spokesperson Geoffrey Gaul. The charge was almost three years old. It simply wasn’t worth going through a whole re-hearing with a new judge, he says.

“It took them long enough,” Hamilton laughs, adding that the Crown should never have pursued the charge against her in the first place.

“Sex trade work is not a criminal issue,” she says. “I’ve always maintained that. [The state] has no business dictating our sexuality.”

As for the bawdy house law itself, Hamilton says it’s outdated and out of step with community values. It should be stricken from the Criminal Code, she repeats.

Though she’s glad her name has finally been cleared, Hamilton says she’s a bit disappointed that she won’t be the one to lead the fight against the bawdy house law through the court system. She was hoping to challenge the law all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

But she can still lobby, she says. And there are other cases embarking on that journey now, she adds, pointing to Calgary’s Goliath’s case.

Five men are still facing keeper charges in that case, and a sixth man is facing a found-in charge, after police raided Calgary’s gay bathhouse last December.

Terry Haldane is the man facing the found-in charge. He, too, has been running a legal obstacle course ever since his arrest. And he, too, has vowed to fight the charge against him.

Haldane first appeared in court in January, hoping to enter a not guilty plea and move on to the next step in the process. But the Crown’s disclosure problems and other delays got in the way. Two subsequent appearances yielded the same result.

Finally, on his fourth try in court, Haldane managed to plead not guilty Apr 16. “I’m relieved,” he says, noting that he hasn’t slept well in months.

The Goliath’s trial is now scheduled to begin Nov 17, 2003, almost a year after the raid took place.

“That’s my birthday,” Haldane notes, wondering whether or not that’s a good omen.

Hamilton predicts the Alberta Crown will follow BC’s example and stay the rest of its Goliath’s charges soon. (The Alberta Crown has already stayed one of its keeper charges, but that was because Ed Southern does not co-own the bathhouse as police originally thought.)

Haldane is not opposed to the Crown staying his charge, too, but he isn’t counting on it-and he isn’t backing down.

“There’s no damn way” he’s going to let the community down on this one, Haldane says, vowing to fight the charge and the whole bawdy house section of the Criminal Code. The Calgary police “have to be called to task,” he adds.


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